My Day’s Work

By P. M. PIPER, Policewoman, El, Liverpool Street

PW Piper – Liverpool St

PW Piper – Liverpool St

Prior to the outbreak of the war I had a desire to be a policewoman, and my chance came in March, 1941, when I was selected and appointed the first policewoman on the London & North Eastern Railway, and was posted to the Liverpool Street district, which comprises Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, Royal Mint Street, etc. I have the same rights and privileges as an ordinary constable concerning the Railway, and I hold a warrant which enables me to execute my duty both in England and Wales.

On arriving for my duties, which are rostered at various times, I go to the room which is allocated to the women police. Before discarding my civilian attire I inspect my uniform, as it is essential that it should be absolutely clean and a credit to the Force. I then report to the Inspector’s Office for instructions and look over the daily “informations” for missing and wanted persons, memorizing their descriptions, etc., in case I should find them loitering on or about the station. After leaving the office I proceed on my “beat”. Unlike the ordinary police constable, I have a general patrol.

During my tour of duty there are a considerable number of outgoing and incoming main-line trains, and I am more or less in attendance on the whole of these. As to the incoming trains, from time to time I have to deal with passengers’ complaints of lost luggage, in which case I search brake vans, platforms, etc., and if this produces a negative result I accompany the complainant to the Lost Property Office for them to continue inquiries through other stations for the missing luggage. It is really amazing the number of people who, in spite of friendly warnings not to leave their luggage unattended, remain extremely trusting and pay little or no attention to their suitcases, going right away from the station and coming back, perhaps, an hour afterwards expecting to find their luggage in the same place.

Watching hundreds of faces has shown me it does not always do to go by looks. A scrubby-looking down-and-out may be a thoroughly honest fellow, but the fatherly-looking gentleman may be watching his chance to walk off with a suitcase. I often find small children who have come from a train and there is no one to meet them. The other day an evacuee decided to return to London and tried to pass through the barrier with only a rather dirty-looking platform ticket, and when I asked him why he had done it, he said he was fed up with the country and wanted some life. All these children have to be looked after until friends or parents can be found.

Railway stations have a fascination for small boys, particularly during school holidays. They delight to interfere with slot machines, and even try their hand at pressing button ‘B’ in the telephone boxes, always endeavouring, of course, to avoid the “cops.”

Then there is the lady who cannot use the telephone, and asks me to make a call for her; the old gentleman who cannot see without his glasses and wants to read the “Train departure” board.

A few days ago I was asked by an elderly lady how to got to the “big church,” as she called it. “You know the one I mean,” she said. After fumbling about in her handbag she produced a letter for me to read, and from the contents I discovered that she wanted Westminster Abbey. After that I had a gentleman who asked me how to get to the Old Kent Road. I asked him, “Which end do you want?” and his reply was, “Are there two ends?”

There is certainly a humorous side to my job as well as the serious, and it is necessary to keep a fairly even keel when after going to a great deal of trouble to direct someone or help them on their way, they tell me they think they had better “ask a policeman.” However, being a policewoman is a very interesting job, and when it is time for me to go off duty I have the satisfaction of feeling that in some small way my efforts have been of service both to the Company and the community. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who desires a life which is “different” and certainly not hundrum.

 

Extract from the London & North Eastern Railway Magazine, 1943.
Photo and text from the L&NER Magazine DVD. © Great Eastern Railway Society